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Dreading Cape Cod traffic this summer? Let the iCone help

April 9, 2010

Mar 17, 2010

(NECN: Cape Cod) – If you are brave enough to drive to the Cape during the summer season, you already know what a traffic nightmare the experience can truly be. But, a new high-tech gadget could be the ticket to a more enjoyable trip.

The iCone is designed to help alleviate congestion and give transportation officials a better idea of how roadwork affects traffic.

A global positioning system, a speed radar and a wireless connection transmit information on traffic conditions to an online map and electronic signs to warn motorists of delays in crossing the bridge, which has been restricted to one lane in each direction for repairs by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Cape Cod Times reporter Patrick Cassidy joins NECN for a discussion.

iCones warn motorists of slowdowns

iCones warn motorists of slowdowns
By Patrick Cassidy
pcassidy@capecodonline.com
March 17, 2010

SAGAMORE — Cars and trucks whizzed by a phalanx of orange-and-white striped barrels approaching the Sagamore Bridge yesterday.

Tucked against a nearby sign, one of the plastic construction drums appeared brighter than the others. Meet the iCone, a barrel nearly indistinguishable from its more beat up brethren.

But it’s what’s inside the iCone that counts.

Along with five other barrels positioned just off the westbound shoulder at half-mile intervals from Exit 2 to the bridge, the iCone is part of a new high tech system — the first of its kind in the state — to help alleviate congestion and give transportation officials a better idea of how roadwork affects traffic.

A global positioning system, a speed radar and a wireless connection transmit information on traffic conditions to an online map and electronic signs to warn motorists of delays in crossing the bridge, which has been restricted to one lane in each direction for repairs by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The bridge work has irked many motorists since it began in September. On busy weekends, backups have stretched for miles and, despite a winter respite, lane restrictions are expected to continue through at least the spring.

“It’s looking good for no return in the fall,” Frank Vilkas, Army Corps project engineer for the bridge work, said of the likelihood that the repairs can be completed by the summer.

The contractor working for the Army Corps rents all six iCones from Work Safe Traffic Control Industries Inc. at a cost of $9,600 or about $53 a day for each barrel, Army Corps resident engineer Maurice Beaudoin said.

The price might be less if the rental period was longer, but the Army Corps only plans to use the barrels for two months, Beaudoin said.

The Cape iCone system is the only one the company has up and running right now and is one of its first full deployments of the technology, Work Safe vice president Debbie Ricker said.

The smart barrels calculate the average speed of passing traffic and quickly update the map online, she said. Data collected from the barrels also can be used by state officials to meet demands from federal transportation officials for analysis of how road work affects traffic, she said.

It took about a half-hour to set up the six Cape-based barrels Monday, said iCone managing partner Ross Sheckler. “Last year, we probably did two or three dozen jobs,” he said.

The manufacturer’s online map showed other barrels yesterday on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco; one in Salt Lake City, Utah; and one outside of Syracuse, N.Y.

When viewing the online map, the barrels show up as green, yellow or red depending on how fast traffic is flowing. Orange reflects an unknown status and gray indicates the equipment was recently turned off.

By today, Sheckler expected to have everything up and running, sending close to real-time information to three electronic signs set up by the Massachusetts Highway Department on the Cape-side approach to the bridge.

“It’s not taking your speed,” he said, addressing any concerns that the barrels could be used by the police to bust speeders. The radar averages the speed of all the cars that pass in a minute, he said, noting the iCone system does not snap photos of passing motorists.

Besides alerting commuters to traffic patterns, the iCones have other possible benefits such as indirectly alerting public safety officials of accidents or other road hazards that may be causing traffic to slow down in the affected area, he said. Alerts could be sent to public safety workers if a problem is detected, he added.

“I think Mass Highway is going to use this more and more,” Sheckler said of the state’s enthusiasm for the technology.

Yesterday, state officials were testing the system and how it interacts with message boards. They hope to have the system fully functional today, Mass Highway spokesman Adam Hurtebise wrote in an e-mail to the Times.

Another one of the system’s features, Hurtebise noted, are cameras mounted on two of the message boards that link to the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Web site.

Drivers heading off-Cape yesterday saw the iCones as a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the data could help some motorists avoid traffic delays. But, for those who can’t reschedule an off-Cape trip, the information has little value, said Sandwich resident Irene Papsy as she walked to her car in the parking lot of the Christmas Tree Shops at the foot of the bridge.

Continuing the work year round to finish it faster might be more useful, she said.

“My personal feeling is that they should do (the bridge work) when the tourists are here, too,” she said.

Caltrans Uses iCONEs to Monitor Traffic During Bay Bridge Closure

December 10, 2009

Caltrans Uses iCONEs to Monitor Traffic During Bay Bridge Closure

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. October 6, 2009

For the third year in a row, Caltrans closed the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge during Labor Day
Weekend while work was done on the bridge. A 300 foot long section was removed and a new section was moved into place connecting the east span with a new detour span at Yerba Buena Island. To do this, Caltrans chose to close the bridge from Thursday at 8 PM through Tuesday at 5 AM.

The Bay Bridge is a popular route for both commuters and visitors alike. The AADT runs nearly 250,000 vehicles per day. A large public outreach effort was made including ads on TV, newspapers and radio; two websites (www.baybridgeinfo.org and http://baybridge360.org ); Twitter and YouTube (http://youtube.com/BayBridgeInfo ).

There were also dozens of portable and permanent changeable message signs placed along key routes warning of the closure. Traffic was definitely reduced by these efforts but volumes still increased on alternate routes. There were three main detours. To the north is the Richmond – San Rafael Bridge connecting to 101 and the Golden Gate Bridge. To the south there are two options. The closest is the San Mateo Bridge and nine miles farther south is the Dumbarton Bridge.

When the Bay Bridge was closed the past two years, the most serious backups occurred at the east end of the San Mateo Bridge and at the transitions between 101 and 580 in San Rafael in Marin County.

Caltrans therefore chose to place 5 iCONEs on 92 just west of 880, 3 to monitor east bound traffic and 2 to monitor west bound traffic. They also placed 8 iCONEs in Marin County – 2 on 580 west bound, 3 on 101 north bound and 3 on 101 south bound.

The iCONEs were primarily used to monitor queue lengths. They expected some queuing. But wanted to know immediately when delays got worse. As it turned out, traffic wasn’t too bad. The queues did exceed their targets a few times but only briefly so Caltrans never needed to divert traffic to other alternate routes.

After the closure Caltrans reviewed the data to learn where problems did occur and why. They already had the “big picture” provided by loops and cameras showing how traffic moved around the Bay Area during the Labor Day Weekend. They know what the counts and volumes are for segments of each route. But the iCONEs gave them a more granular “micro” view at key locations. They can see exactly where the backups began and learn how they ebbed and flowed during the weekend. This will help them identify some of the causes of slowing so they can work to minimize those even further when they close the bridge again next year.

Road-Tech Safety Services of Elk Grove, California is the local distributor. They placed 9 of the devices while Caltrans placed the other 4. Road-Tech monitored their performance throughout the weekend and picked them up after the bridge was reopened.

The iCONEs performed very well. Dale McCrossen, Caltrans’ Lane Closure Manager for the Bay Area said “The iCONEs were like having several people standing by the road to monitor traffic. They helped him leverage his time and allowed him to, in effect, be in several places at one time”.

Mr. McCrossen was very happy with the data from most of the iCONEs. But, he was not with the one east bound on 92 just prior to the 880 interchange. That particular device always showed slow or stopped traffic. But traffic is slow there even when the Bay Bridge is open. So he moved it farther west on 92 past the toll
plaza out onto the bridge itself to learn if queues backed up that far. They did for a few short periods, but that told him the extent of the queue and gave him a good idea of the length of the delays through that
interchange.

The ease with which the iCONEs were deployed made them ideal for events of this kind. They worked well,
were easily relocated when necessary, were very cost effective and the resulting data will help Caltrans to plan future closures.

Contact:

Joe Jeffrey, Vice President

Road-Tech Safety Systems, Inc.

9110 Union Park Way, Suite 100

Elk Grove, CA., 95624-2792

Phone: (916)714-1466

Fax: (916)714-7805

E-mail: joe@road-tech.com

SafeTrip-21 Transportation Safety Technologies Hit the Streets of Manhattan

May 5, 2009

SafeTrip-21 Transportation Safety Technologies Hit the Streets of Manhattan

The Volpe Center has launched a bold, new intelligent transportation systems (ITS) initiative dubbed SafeTrip-21, for Safe and Efficient Travel Through Innovation and Partnerships for the 21st Century.

SafeTrip-21 builds upon the U.S. DOT Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII) research and leverage’s technologies currently in wide use such as cellular phones, GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth, and the Internet, to accelerate the advance of safety and mobility applications. The Volpe Center will assess applications to improve automobile travel and public transit convenience as well as commercial vehicle safety and productivity.

In June 2008, the Volpe Center entered into a cooperative agreement with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) establishing the inaugural SafeTrip-21 field test site in the San Francisco Bay area. In this 12-month field test beginning December 2008, travelers will receive transportation information and transmit their own transportation data, creating a real-time, dynamic, wireless data mesh of mobile information- a virtual “web on wheels.”

SafeTrip-21 technologies were unveiled at the 15th ITS World Congress in New York City in November. A New York MTA bus and two rental vehicles were equipped to demonstrate applications for both drivers and transit riders on the streets of Manhattan. Also, key driver and pedestrian applications were show-cased at a special “Integrated Show” which included technologies developed worldwide.

Three new SafeTrip-21 partners were also announced at the World Congress:

  • iCone deploys active road cones to help increase roadway safety by using radar to measure traffic speed.
  • Parking Carma fields a mobile webenabled parking application that allows travelers to find, reserve, and pay for a parking space at a participating “smart” parking lot.
  • The I-95 Corridor Coalition uses vehicle probe data make it much easier for I-95 travelers to get information about traffic backups, construction information, and other delays.

The Volpe Center is excited about Safe-Trip-21 and the development of these technologies in the coming year.

image of a safetrip 21 equipped bus in NYC
SafeTrip-21 technology on display at the ITS World Congress on the streets of Manhattan. This New York MTA Orion IV low-floor, hybrid electric bus was equipped to demonstrate how SafeTrip-21 uses available technologies to bring the future of travel to the United States today. (Photo courtesy of University of California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways)

iCone wins SafeTrip-21 approval

iCone wins SafeTrip-21 approval

icone-seethroughRight: iCone contains a suite of devices to provide information about its immediate environment to remote users

A ‘smart’ road cone that monitors traffic and relays the data wirelessly has been approved for inclusion in the SafeTrip-21 ITS program run by the US DOT’s RITA. The iCone looks like a normal traffic barrel, but contains a suite of devices to provide information about its immediate environment to remote users.

Within the orange and white striped barrel is a GPS unit, vehicle speed measurer, vehicle counter and road temperature sensors. The data are transmitted by GPRS or, when a regular signal is not available, by an Iridium satellite link. The battery unit can power the devices for up to 17 days and the recharge socket on the side of the iCone is one of the few elements that distinguishes it from ordinary, dumb barrels.

“It’s good for monitoring vehicle speed in work zones,” says Lee Maynus, senior engineer at the Cato, New York, company. All data are viewable by users through the web, an example of which can be seen here – www.iconetraffic.com.

Left: iCone looks like a normal traffic barrel

Maynus says that users needn’t worry about the high-tech equipped barrels being stolen. “A guy tried to make off with one last month, but he didn’t know that it includes an accelerometer,” Maynus told this website at the ITS World Congress. “As soon as it detects movement it increases the frequency of location transmission so we could follow it, all the way. We even saw that he stopped by a market on his way. Then we gave the information to the police department and within 12 hours we had our barrel back and the thief was charged.”

20 November 2008

http://www.traffictechnologytoday.com/news.php?NewsID=9295